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TOGETHER WE ARE STRONG! ALONE WE ARE WEAK!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, June 21, 2015

“And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).


Like many of my sermons, this one started as a vague uneasiness. I heard that two new girls liked our young people. “They are so friendly!” they said. But they didn’t like me. I was thinking about that, mulling it over in my mind. It wasn’t that my sermons were boring. I work really hard to make them interesting. Young people usually sit with their mouths slightly open, and their eyes fixed on me while I preach. It wasn’t my personality either. I like to be with young people. And they can tell I do. I think what upset those two girls was something I say at the end of nearly every sermon. I give a short prayer. Then I walk closer to the TV camera. I’m talking to the audience on YouTube and our website. I say something like this to the people watching – “Whatever else you do, get into a Bible preaching church, preferably one with a Sunday evening service. Be there every time the door is open.” I picked up the last few words from Jerry Falwell, as he ended his TV programs. “Be there every time the door is open.” Then I often say, “Don’t run from one church to another.” It was those words, at the end of my sermons, that the two new girls didn’t like. In fact, they left the church over it.

Am I going to stop saying that? No – I will keep on saying it. Why? Because that is exactly what young people need to do – that’s why! Our church grows almost exclusively by adding converts in their late teens and early twenties. That’s rare. Most churches lose 88% of their young people. But that’s for another sermon. We grow by adding solid young people from the same age group that most churches lose. We don’t do it by pulling any punches – or trying to “sweet talk” them. Kids today are sharp enough to spot the phoniness of that kind of approach. I talk straight to them. I say, “This is what you need – and this is the reason you need it.” No games! Straight teaching! Take it or leave it! Even if they leave they will know I was honest with them! I’m not trying to make you like me! I’m trying to get you converted. My goal is to help you to become a real Christian and a solid church member!

You say, “Why do I need this church so bad?” I’ll tell you why? Because without the church you have nothing permanent, that’s why! Alvin Toffler wrote about that in Future Shock. He spoke of “the death of permanence,” “the concept of transience,” “friendships in the future,” “serial marriages,” and “how to lose friends.” Change, change, change. The mobility and change gives us no permanent home, no permanent friends, and no permanent relationships! Everything and everyone we know is only temporary! It gives young people future shock! Toffler wrote the book in 1970. When I read it again last Thursday I thought it could have been written six months ago! Everyone moves so much, and changes so often, that young people come out like street people, who live under a different cardboard box, on a different street, every night. No wonder so many kids are on some form of medication! The world is whirling past them – so fast that they think they need pills to make life bearable. It always startles me to hear kids speak of “friends” they have only known for an hour or two. I’m not finding fault. I’m just observing. It seems to me that kids today change “friends” as quickly as we used to change our underwear!

Paul McCartney was exactly one year younger than me. He was just barely young enough to be a Hippie. Like so many Hippies, Paul McCartney, of the Beatles, was concerned with loneliness. He wrote that strange song Mr. Griffith sang a moment ago – which became a big hit for the Beatles when he sang it with John Lennon. It talks about two people, Eleanor Rigby (an unmarried middle-aged woman) and Father McKenzie, a priest who lives alone.

Father McKenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear.
No one comes near.
Look at him working, darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there.
What does he care?

An old priest, writing a sermon that no one will pay attention to. Fixing the holes in his socks “when there’s nobody there.” “What does he care?” He’s so used to a lonely existence it doesn’t even bother him anymore.

Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name.
Nobody came.

She died without leaving any children bearing her name. No one came to her funeral.

Father McKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave.
No one was saved.

Nobody came to her funeral. Nobody heard his sermon. Nobody was saved. And then the chorus,

All the lonely people,
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people,
Where do they all belong?

Thoughts like that worried the Hippies. They came together by the thousands – at Berkeley, in the Haight Ashbury of San Francisco, on Hollywood Blvd., on Venice Beach. A bunch of them would get an old house. They would all live there. Others would “crash” there for a night or two. They wanted to be together. They wanted a communal feeling. It was easy to get them to come to church, especially if you let them drag in a duffle bag and sit on the floor. They were called “Jesus Freaks” or “Jesus People.”

The Baptists really missed out. They could so easily have gotten tens of thousands of those kids. But they were afraid of them. Now it’s too late – everlastingly too late. The charismatics and Pentecostals got them all. Today the Baptists are afraid of Oriental and Hispanic kids. They could easily get tens of thousands of them. But they are afraid of them too. Soon it will be too late – everlastingly too late – again.

But you kids don’t need a communal house to “crash” in. You don’t even feel the need for a community like that. Not long ago I was talking with a friend that worked with the “Jesus People.” I asked him why young people today don’t feel the need for a community like the Hippies did. He said, “I haven’t thought of it. I don’t know.” Just when he said that the answer came to me – “They don’t need a communal place because they have iPhones and smartphones.” They don’t need a commune like the old Hippies had. They now have iPhones and smartphones. They can write on them and talk on them – and pretend that they have a lot of close friends. Those machines take the place of real friends. Why go through all the trouble of making real friends – when it’s so much easier to have electronic friends? Eleanor Rigby and Father McKenzie wouldn’t have felt so lonely if they had owned your electronic gadgets. They would have had “virtual” friends like you have. But a “virtual” friend is not the same as a real friend! No way! Did you hear about the young man in South Carolina? He killed nine people last week. What was wrong with him? Yes, he lived on the Internet! It scrambled his brains. Get off the machines, at least some of the time! Get off the machines and live a real life! And be in church! And that brings me back to our text,

“And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

I have read more than ten commentaries on that passage. All of them say this passage of Scripture refers to the necessity of fellowship in the local church. Dr. W. A. Criswell said, “This passage provides one of the strongest affirmations in the Bible of the crucial importance of the local church...to be faithful to [the church]” (The Criswell Study Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1979 edition, p. 1438; note on Hebrews 10:25).

Let me give you a modern translation. I preach only from the KJV. I don’t recommend any other translation. But sometimes it might be helpful to read a modern translation to “feel” the impact of a passage. Here are the NASV and NIV translations woven together,

Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:24 NASV; 10:25 NIV).

We need to be in church to be “stimulated” to love and good works. We need to be in church to “encourage one another.” Then there is what John MacArthur calls an “eschatological urgency” – which shows that it grows more and more important to be in church, “as ye see the day approaching.” That “day” refers to the day of Christ’s second coming. This is an important prophecy. As we enter the last days of this world it becomes more and more important to be dedicated to the local church. Why? Because there will be greater and greater social pressure to lose faith in the last days in which we live. In olden times people could make it by attending church once a week. But now the howling winds of social change (future shock!) make it ever more important to be with other Christians in the fellowship of the local church. Listen to what Thomas Hale said in his commentary, “If anyone begins to waver [in his faith] let us be quick to encourage and strengthen him. Let us spur [or stimulate] each other toward love and good deeds. Let us see that no one among us falls back [into sin and worldliness]. Together we are strong, but alone we are weak” (Thomas Hale, The Applied New Testament Commentary, Kingsway Publications, 1997, pp. 913, 914; comment on Hebrews 10:24; Dr. Hymers’ notes in brackets).

The local church is not just a place where you come to study the Bible, although that is very important. Our fellowship is not built solely around the meals we have after every service, although that is very important. But our fellowship is built around the main purpose of the church – which is reaching out to bring in other young people who are not yet Christians. Thomas Hale’s commentary says, “Evangelism is the primary purpose of the church...the primary concern of leading men and women to Jesus Christ and to salvation” (ibid., p. 125).

So we tell new people, “Come with us! Eat with us! Make friends with us! Worship with us! Go out to evangelism with us! Come all the way into the church! Come to the evening service! Come to prayer meeting! Get into the family of God!” “Together we are strong. Alone we are weak.”

Not everyone will do that right away. We will wait for you. We will explain why this is necessary. We will do all we can to help you. That is exactly what the early churches did. Dr. Michael Green has written a wonderful book titled, Evangelism in the Early Church (Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003 edition). Dr. Green said, “...fellowship was absolutely crucial to the advance of the church. Men had to be attracted in [to the churches] by another fellowship which was richer and more rewarding... [They saw] how the Christians loved one another” (p. 256). “The fellowship the church offered, transcending barriers of race, sex, class and education, was an enormous attraction” (p. 253). Dr. Green pointed out that nothing was done in secret. Unbelievers were brought right in and treated like everyone else. The ancient Christian writer Tertullian (160-220 A.D.) spoke of Christian love and fellowship in the churches. He said this was a big factor in attracting large numbers of pagans to become Christians in the early years of our faith (ibid.). Tertullian said that tens of thousands of pagans joined the churches in North Africa because of the love and fellowship they had.

I was a lonely boy. My parents were divorced. I had to live with relatives who didn’t really want me in their home. I walked the streets alone. I was one of those like John Lennon sang about,

“All the lonely people,
 Where do they all belong?”

I’ll tell you where they belong. They belong in a church like this one! That’s where you belong too! How sad that poor John Lennon never trusted Jesus and never came into a local church! In the end he took drugs and stayed in bed most of the day.

If I had not gotten into a strong church, I am sure I would not be here this morning. I am sure I would have been dead long ago like poor John Lennon. My friend committed suicide. Would I have done that? I don’t know. But I do know that I was saved from a dark and lonely world by the warmth and fellowship I found in the local church. When I was a teenager the church became my second home.

I know many of you will not listen to me. I know you will not come all the way in with us. But always remember that we invited you in! Always remember that we wanted you to be with us. Sure, it will cost you something! Of course! Commitment always costs something. You cannot have a lasting marriage without commitment. I want to be committed to you. And I ask you to be committed to me as well. As Thomas Hale put it in his commentary, “Together we are strong, but alone we are weak” (ibid., p. 914). Someone may say, “I can’t do it.” Be honest with yourself. You could do it, but you don’t want to. You want to be “free.” Too bad. That means you’ll be alone. Together we are strong. Alone we are weak!

Together we are strong! Alone we are weak! That’s my message to you this morning! Jesus is available to you now. Come to Him! He died on the Cross to save you from judgment. He rose from the dead to give you a new life. He is alive right now – up in Paradise, in the Third Heaven. Don’t stand outside the door like the older brother of the prodigal son. The Bible says he “would not go in” (Luke 15:28). The others were inside having a big, happy party. But the older brother said, I will “not go in.” Some of you are still doing that. We say, “come in to Jesus! Come in and join the party!” But you say, “I will not go in.” We’re still waiting for you! Come in to Jesus and join the party!

Come home, come home,
  Ye who are weary, come home,
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
   Calling, O sinner, come home.
("Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling" by Will L. Thompson, 1847-1909).

Father, I pray that someone will actually come to Jesus – and come into our church family as well. In His name, Amen. “Together we are strong! Alone we are weak!” If you forget everything else I said this morning, please remember that! Together we are strong. Alone we are weak. Amen.

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(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Hebrews 10:19-25.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Eleanor Rigby” (by Paul McCartney, 1942-).